Weekend Open Thread
[guest post by Dana]
Here are a few news items for you to discuss. Feel free to share anything that you think would interest readers. Please make sure to include links.
First news item
A State Department official for several years has been publicly calling for the establishment of Christian nation-states, warning that white people face “elimination” and railing against Jews as well as Black Lives Matter and other social movements.
Fritz Berggren, a mid-ranking Foreign Service officer, openly uses his name and image as he espouses these and other controversial views, according to a review of his online postings. Current and former State Department officials noted the connection to POLITICO in recent days.
“Jesus Christ came to save the whole world from the Jews — the founders of the original Anti-Christ religion, they who are the seed of the Serpent, that brood of vipers,” states an Oct. 4 blog post signed “Fritz Berggren, PhD” and titled “Jews are Not God’s Chosen People. Judeo-Christian is Anti-Christ.”
“They murdered Jesus Christ,” the 5,300-word post continues, “How then can they be God’s chosen?”
In a Oct. 24 post titled “The Demon-God of Diversity,” he states: “The world gasps in horror with each new ‘endangered’ sub-species, but cheers the elimination of White culture from whole regions of the earth. This will not stop until White people stop it — we have been handmaidens to our own demise.”
Second news item
Clearly, definitions of “essential spending” and “coronavirus relief” are up for grabs:
[T]he U.S. House posted a first draft version of the “American Rescue Plan Act of 2021” – a $1.9 trillion emergency aid package to help America recover from the coronavirus pandemic.
Previous legislation has already provided at least $4 trillion in funds for testing, paid family leave, small business relief, direct payments to individuals and families, the Kennedy Center, and a plethora of non-related Covid-19 “relief.”
*$1.5 million earmarked for the Seaway International Bridge, which connects New York to Canada. Senate Leader Chuck Schumer hails from New York.
*$50 million for “family planning” – going to non-profits, i.e. Planned Parenthood, or public entities, including for “services for adolescents[.]”
*$852 million for AmeriCorps, AmeriCorps Vista, and the National Senior Service Corps – the Corporation for National and Community Service – civic volunteer agencies. This includes $9 million for the AmeriCorp inspector general to conduct oversight and audits of the largess. AmeriCorps received a $1.1 billion FY2020 appropriation.
Third news item
California legislators working hard to increase Amazon sales:
Retail stores in most of California are only allowed to operate at 25 percent capacity. A new bill in the state legislature would ensure that whatever part of their shop is allowed to be open is as inclusive as possible.
Last week, Assembly Members Evan Low (D–Cupertino) and Cristina Garcia (D–Los Angeles) introduced a bill that would require retailers to offer their toys and childcare products in a gender-neutral format.
Brick-and-mortar shops would have to display the majority of their products and clothing aimed at children in one undivided, unisex area on the sales floor. They’d also be barred from putting up signage that would indicate whether a product was intended for a boy or girl.
If passed, stores that did put dresses in a separate girls section could be hit with a $1,000 civil fine. The policy would only apply to retail department stores with over 500 employees.
CAUTION: RANT AHEAD…So now parents will have to take extra time to pick through the gender-neutral clothing to try and find clothes specifically intended for boys or girls? No, that wouldn’t be frustrating at all, especially if you are shopping with irritable offspring who clearly want to be doing anything but shopping. And using the heavy-hand of the government to enforce this policy is just so typical. We are in the midst of a devastating pandemic where people’s lives have been turned upside down as they face Covid-19, school closures, online learning, unemployment, lost businesses, struggles to pay rent and to put food on the table, and all these nimwits can think of to do in a time of crisis is…this? To review: introduce a dumb piece of legislation (stores are already moving in this direction, no need to mandate it) during a pandemic, have the government penalize stores (currently functioning at a limited capacity because of said pandemic) if they don’t submit. Brilliant move, California. Sure, increase bureaucracy by having to enforce the new policy (aka new revenue stream). And when you end up scratching your heads as businesses start leaving the state because the grass is indeed greener elsewhere, you’re going to hear a nasty I told you so from me. And that’s when the real insanity kicks-in: Taxes will be raised on Californians to make up for the lost revenue. Lather-rinse-repeat.
Fourth news item
President Biden orders airstrikes in Syria:
President Joe Biden on Thursday ordered airstrikes on buildings in Syria that the Pentagon said were used by Iranian-backed militias, in retaliation for rocket attacks on U.S. targets in neighboring Iraq.
The strikes killed at least 22 people, London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Friday, citing unconfirmed local reports.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby portrayed the bombing in eastern Syria as carefully calibrated, calling it “proportionate” and “defensive.”
Democrats had concerns about the President’s decision:
“Some Democrats said that Congress has not passed an authorization for the use of military force specifically in Syria,” reports CNN.
Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) said “there is absolutely no justification for a president to authorize a military strike that is not in self-defense against an imminent threat without congressional authorization … we need to extricate from the Middle East, not escalate.”
Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) agreed, calling for an immediate congressional briefing and saying “offensive military action without congressional approval is not constitutional absent extraordinary circumstances.”
Jen-jump-to-defend-Psaki jumped in and did that thing she does:
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki defended the action as “necessary,” and said Biden “has the right to take action” as he sees fit. She said “there was a thorough, legal response” and the Defense Department briefed congressional leadership in advance.
Fifth news item
Today’s Republican Party confirmed at T-PAC:
With the first full day of the Conservative Political Action Conference underway, there’s already an indisputable star: an outrageously golden statue of Donald Trump wearing shorts and flip-flops.
The more than 6-foot-tall statue turned heads as it was wheeled into the Hyatt Regency Thursday evening while CPAC attendees picked up their registration and milled about the hotel. The statue was on its way to the conference’s exhibit hall, where it found a home in a booth for a conservative nonprofit called Look Ahead America.
Tommy Zegan, a California-based artist, created the Trump statue in response to the multiple pieces of art mocking Trump.
“Two years ago, when I saw all those statues of naked Trump and Trump on a toilet, I said, ‘You know what? I can do better,’ ” Zegan told CNN Friday as attendees gathered around the statue to snap photos with it.
Here is Zegan’s statue of Trump. It reminds me of a cross between the iconic Bob’s Big Boy statute and Exodus 32:
Sixth news item
The Biden administration will not sanction Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman over Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in 2018 even though a declassified US intelligence assessment explicitly implicated him.
The Treasury Department on Friday unveiled sanctions against Gen. Ahmed al-Asiri, a former deputy head of the Saudi intelligence services, and the Saudi Rapid Intervention Force.
“Those involved in the abhorrent killing of Jamal Khashoggi must be held accountable. With this action, Treasury is sanctioning Saudi Arabia’s Rapid Intervention Force and a senior Saudi official who was directly involved in Jamal Khashoggi’s murder,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement. “The United States stands united with journalists and political dissidents in opposing threats of violence and intimidation. We will continue to defend the freedom of expression, which is the bedrock of a free society.”
A senior administration official told Reuters that the Biden administration was concerned that sanctioning the crown prince could “rupture” the US-Saudi relationship.
Seventh news item
The number of unaccompanied immigrant children arrested for crossing the U.S. southern border illegally is on pace to rise more than 50% in February compared with the previous month, people familiar with the matter said, raising the prospect of a humanitarian crisis there.
About 2,200 children have been illegally crossing the border weekly in February, and the pace is picking up as the month progresses, some of the people said. The government is projecting that about 9,000 children will be taken into custody by the end of February.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported taking 5,707 unaccompanied children into custody in January, an 18% rise from the previous month. The growing number of children in custody is beginning to strain the government’s ability to properly house and care for them.
Eighth news item
Social media posts continue to bite users :
A former Walled Lake High School teacher has filed a federal lawsuit over his firing last year over his political posts on social media.
Justin Kucera, who also coached sports at the school, got into hot water last July when he tweeted his support for then-President Donald Trump, and also that “Liberals suck man.”
Kucera was offered his job back if he would apologize and promise to do better, but Kurcera claims the discipline is a violation of his first amendment rights.
Kucera is seeking damages for lost income and emotional distress.
Deleting a thousand old tweets doesn’t undo the damage:
[Neera Tanden’s] nomination as President Biden’s budget chief appears to be hanging by a thread, mostly because of GOP senators angered by her sharp tone on Twitter as head of the Center for American Progress.
The White House is sticking with Tanden so far, but it does not appear she has 50 votes of support in the Senate.
And while it is mostly Republicans complaining about her tweets, they’ve been joined by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), who says he’ll oppose her nomination because of her Twitter voice. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) has also felt her barbs on Twitter and has been notable in not offering his public backing.
Related (and confirming how really awful people can be):
…a Washington Post reporter showed Murkowski a tweet Tanden had written about the Alaska senator in 2017 when she accused her of being “high on your own supply.”
“You know, we know, and everyone knows this is all garbage,” Tanden wrote in the tweet. “Just stop.”
After reading the tweet on the reporter’s phone, Murkowski replied: “High on my own supply, that’s interesting. Should I ask her? My own supply of what? See that goes to show how much homework I still have to do on her if I didn’t even know that she had sent out a tweet about me.”
In another sign of the nation’s noxious political atmosphere, particularly on social media and in emails sent to the media, the Washington Post reporter who showed Murkowski the tweet was hit with racist, sexist and hateful attacks after a photo of the exchange circulated on social media.
P.S. Don’t miss this great interview with Reason’s Nick Gillespie and Rep. Peter Meijer. In his almost two months serving as a representative, Meijer has faced some enormous challenges:
Just three days after being sworn into Congress to represent Michigan’s 3rd district, Republican freshman Peter Meijer found himself and colleagues trapped without security in the bowels of the Capitol building while a riot that ultimately claimed five lives raged all around him.
The following week, he was one of just 10 Republicans—and the only first-termer—to vote to impeach Donald Trump, a decision that led to a narrowly failed censure vote from his own state’s GOP and immediate announcements that he will be primaried in 2022.
It’s apparent from the get-go that Meijer is smart, insightful, and best of all, thinks before he speaks:
Meijer tells Nick Gillespie why he believes in limited government, economic freedom, and individualism; why he’s against out-of-control stimulus spending and military adventurism; and how he plans to combat the craziness he sees both on the right and left in the House of Representatives. He also talks about what he’s learned about business and public service from being the scion of the Meijer superstore chain, how generational fault lines may be every bit as important as partisan ones, and why he’s committed to voting his principles rather than his constituents’ will.
If the GOP had more Meijers, they might actually woo voters back to the Party.
Have a great weekend!
[ADDENDUM by JVW]
Since DCSCA is chiding us for not discussing the Mars 2020 mission and the Perseverance Rover’s successful landing on the red planet, I include here one of the first images captured by the rover.